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U.S. still has much work to do, coach Jurgen Klinsmann says

Posted: July 2, 2014 - 8:45pm  |  Updated: July 2, 2014 - 9:09pm
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann leaves the pitch after Tuesday's loss to Belgium in Salvador, Brazil.  AP
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann leaves the pitch after Tuesday's loss to Belgium in Salvador, Brazil.

SAO PAULO | Turns out Jurgen Klinsmann was right: The United States isn’t ready to win the World Cup.

The Americans were eliminated in the round of 16 for the second straight tournament. They’ve been ranked 13th or 14th every month since September, which means their exit was pretty much at the stage it’s expected to be.

“Clearly, it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you,” the U.S. coach said Wednesday, a day after the 2-1 loss to Belgium in extra time.

From Wall Street to the White House to the West Coast, Americans watched their national team on television in record numbers. While buoyed by the increase in attention, players are desperate to join the world’s elite and are far from attaining that level.

Klinsmann was a World Cup champion as a player with West Germany in 1990 and coach of the German team that reached the 2006 semifinals. Having moved to California in 1998 with his American wife, he is seen as bringing the perspective of soccer’s elite to a nation that remains a new world in the sport.

His message to players is they don’t do enough. They don’t play twice a week, like Champions League stars. They don’t face condemnation from their community after losses and poor performances.

“It makes them feel accountable, not just walk away with a bad performance and nothing happens,” he said. “If you have a bad performance, then people should approach you and tell you that, so make sure that next game is not bad anymore and that you step it up.”

President Barack Obama spoke to captain Clint Dempsey and goalkeeper Tim Howard on Wednesday to congratulate the team on its performance. Obama “commended them not only for their work on the field, but for carrying themselves in a way that made the country proud,” the White House said in a statement.

The Americans’ final match, which kicked off at 4 p.m. on a weekday, was seen by 21.6 million on ESPN and Univision, impressively close to the record 24.7 million set for a Sunday evening game against Portugal earlier in the tournament. An average of 1.6 million watched the loss to Belgium on digital streams.

“People now start to care about it. Fans care about it. They comment on social media. They comment everywhere about it, and that’s good,” Klinsmann said.

His most controversial moves coming into the tournament were cutting Landon Donovan, the biggest star in U.S. soccer history, and taking along 18-year-old Julian Green, 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin and 21-year-old John Brooks. Brooks and Green, who turned 19 on June 6, responded with late-game goals when they came in as substitutes, and Yedlin was stellar against Belgium when he replaced injured right back Fabian Johnson.

But Klinsmann’s proclamation that the U.S. would play an attacking game didn’t pan out. The Americans were outshot by a combined 92-41.

“The interesting part is every time we would go down a goal, we’ll shift it up,” Klinsmann said. “I believe it’s more a mental topic that we have to work on than it is a talent topic.”

Klinsmann took over from Bob Bradley in July 2011. Last December, Klinsmann was given a contract through the 2018 tournament that added the title of U.S. Soccer Federation technical director. In the next four-year cycle, he has numerous chances to integrate youth: the CONCACAF Gold Cups in 2015 and 2017, the centennial Copa America in 2016 and a possible trip to the Confederations Cup in 2017.

There also is the under-23 team that will try to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics — the 2012 team stumbled and didn’t reach the London Games, slowing the careers of more than a dozen players.

“We’ve got to do much better than the last cycle,” he said.

He defended his pre-tournament comment that the U.S. was not ready to win the World Cup, saying he didn’t want to raise “expectations to kind of a level that is over the moon.” After he arrived in Brazil, he mentioned he was prepared to stay for the entire tournament, that he had booked a plane ticket for the day after the final just in case.

But as U.S. players prepared to scatter to clubs and family vacations, Klinsmann conceded he also was leaving early.

“I changed the ticket last night,” he said.

Comments (2)

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Baphomet 07/03/14 - 08:42 pm
Premium Member
And Dave I'm sure you have

And Dave I'm sure you have the blueprint for winning a World Cup in your back pocket. Don't bother telling me, you need to call Klinsmann and tell him. I'm sure he will be amazed at your level of insight.

I can see the conversation now:
DC: "Coach Klinsmann, I watch a bunch of Florida Gator football games and I figure that makes me an expert on what it takes to win a World Cup title."

Klinsmann: "Really? Please give me the answers, Dave! I see your insightful knowledge regularly displayed on the Times Union comment forums and I must admit I find myself to unable to comprehend your depth of knowledge. I really hope I can keep up."

DC: "Well I hear that frequently around here. But don't worry I'll try not to talk too far over your head. The first thing you need to do in order to win is bring in Tim Tebow. And you need to make sure you run your offense out of the spread formation."

Klinsmann: "Dave, I hate to say this but I think that kind of offense will not work in football. That is for American football."

DC: "Klinsmann, football is football and I say you run with Tebow and the spread formation and you're all set. I ought to know. I have been a loyal Gator season ticket holder for many years now so that qualifies me to comment on your kind of football too."

Klinsmann: "As I said before, I can not find the words to adequately describe your knowledge and insight. But as a suicide mission, I will give your plan a try. Thanks Dave!"

DC: "You bet, bubba. I'm here for ya if you need anymore insight."

Davethecaveman 07/03/14 - 06:52 am
I'm not sure what to say

I'm not sure what to say about a coach that comes out being negative about your chances before you even play.
Might be true, but not very smart.

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